Patriots

Rob Gronkowski must return by December 1 to play in NFL postseason

Rob Gronkowski must return by December 1 to play in NFL postseason

Speculation that Rob Gronkowski’s retirement was just a temporary thing began the moment he announced it.

That belief has been bolstered since by comments from Gronk’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and Instagram breadcrumbs left by Tom Brady.

But if Gronk is planning a triumphant return in 2019, he’s got to make it by Week 13.

ESPN’s Mike Reiss pointed this out (which Mike is apt to do since he’s on this stuff like white on rice), writing, “If he isn't moved off the reserve/retired list by Week 13, he can't return at all. That rule is in place, in part, to eliminate the possibility that a player could sit out all season and then return just for the playoffs.

On Sunday, I ran into Gronk and asked whether he’d be back on the team by Thanksgiving. He indicated no, but since we were engaged in conversational grabassery, it’s hard to say that was a solid reply. And it’s probably just as hard to say whether he even knows at this point.

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He’s a week into his retirement. He looks unburdened and prepared to pursue a Barkley-esque, man of the people role. He’s not dwelling on when — or if — he’ll be back.

But he’s clearly left the door open for a return enough to inspire Brady to joke that there may be more touchdown receptions for Gronk.

Rosenhaus even laid out scenarios the day after the retirement announcement.

"Rob is 29 years old. He's still a very young man. It wouldn't shock me if he has a change of heart, if he feels great and he decides that he wants to play football," Rosenhaus said.

"But this is just me talking. This isn't Rob. And I don't want to create any unnecessary expectations. Rob is a very unique personality. If the team was struggling or they needed him at some point next year, and let's just say hypothetically Tom Brady gave him a call and said 'Rob, I need you,' I wouldn't be shocked if he came back to play a few games."

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The chance exists that, Gronk being Gronk, he’s too nice to tell everyone to screw and leave him alone, he’s done. We all have ulterior motives for wanting to see a return — Brady, Rosenhaus, those of us in the media. In every case, it’s good for our own businesses.

Is it good for Gronk? Given how glum he was at points last year and how concerned he became about his body and weekly recovery, probably not.

But until the door slams shut, speculation will flow freely. Until December 1.

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Here's how Robert Griffin III imitated Tom Brady in practice before Ravens-Patriots

Here's how Robert Griffin III imitated Tom Brady in practice before Ravens-Patriots

Robert Griffin III has helped the Baltimore Ravens prepare for several different types of quarterbacks this season by imitating their style in practice.

It's not uncommon for a backup quarterback to serve in this role for the scout team, especially for a dual-threat QB like Griffin. But he had to change his own approach for the Ravens to best prepare to play against New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in Week 9.

NFL Media's Mike Garofolo revealed Thursday on NFL Network that Griffin had to run in "slow motion" at times to emulate Brady in practice for the Ravens defense. 

Garafolo's provides more background in the video below:

Brady obviously isn't the most athletic quarterback, but he does move around in the pocket very well. Whether it's stepping up to avoid the rush, or sliding to one side or the other to buy extra time, Brady is a master at creating space in the pocket to deliver a strong, accurate pass. 

We'll never know how much Griffin's imitation of Brady actually helped the Ravens defense, but they certainly did a good job defending against him. Brady was sacked twice, hit 10 times and threw only one touchdown pass with one interception in a 37-20 loss to Baltimore. The 42-year-old veteran's QB rating of 80.4 was his second-lowest for a single game this season.

Griffin might have to imitate Brady one more time if the Patriots and Ravens meet in the playoffs. Based on the current AFC playoff picture, it wouldn't be surprising if these teams played again in the AFC Championship Game in January.

Mohamed Sanu shares his advice for N'Keal Harry ahead of debut>>>

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Patriots' Mohamed Sanu has advice for 'special kid' N'Keal Harry: 'Don't think too much'

Patriots' Mohamed Sanu has advice for 'special kid' N'Keal Harry: 'Don't think too much'

FOXBORO — Mohamed Sanu sounded as though he was talking about someone who might take the field soon. But hard to be sure. He was talking about fellow Patriots receiver N'Keal Harry, who has yet to play in a regular-season game.

"He’s a special kid," Sanu said Thursday. "He (should) just go and be himself and let his abilities take over. Don’t think too much. Have fun. He’ll be good."

Is that "he'll be good" as in "he'll be good" on Sunday? Or "he'll be good" eventually? Or "he'll be good" as a practice player the rest of the way?

Harry was left off the game-day roster in Week 9 as the Patriots took on the Ravens — his first opportunity to play in a game since hitting injured reserve at the start of the season — and now the question is whether or not he'll be ready to make his debut against the Eagles on Sunday afternoon.

In his first meeting with reporters since hitting IR, he was asked how it feels to be ready to get back on the field. 

"It feels great getting out there with my team," Harry said. "Just getting better every day with them, just looking for my role and they way to help the team."

Harry was taken with the No. 32 overall selection in the spring out of Arizona State and looked like a fit as a contested-catch weapon — someone who could bail out Tom Brady in tight spots — for a Patriots offense that was going to be without one of the best contested-catch pass-catchers of the last decade in Rob Gronkowski.

And Harry's start with the team this summer was promising. He had one practice with several drops, but otherwise seemed to make an impressive reception just about every day. He was injured in a practice against the Lions and then played in the preseason opener later that week. He made two catches — both on the outside, both against physical coverage — before getting hurt on the second. 

He left the game and was not a participant in Patriots practices for the remainder of training camp. His next practice was after sitting out the required six-week period for players designated by their teams to return off of IR. 

"It's been great," Harry said, "just going out there with the mentality to get better every day. Just going out there, trying to do my best to get better and get better at something every day. It's been good."

Harry didn't dispute the fact that he might've tried to play through something in Detroit to get on the field for the first exhibition game of the season against the Lions. He said he had no regrets about how the early portion of his rookie season played out, though.

"No, I don’t have any regrets," Harry said. "I don’t need to show anything. Me going out there and playing hard, playing through stuff, that’s just the type of mentality I have and that’s the type of mindset I grew up having. It wasn’t me trying to show anything, show toughness, it was just me."

He's had an opportunity now to be him -- someone described by Tom Brady as "tenacious" and as having an "edge" -- at practice for about a month.

Whether or not the rest of the world should expect to see him be him during a game this weekend remains to be seen. 

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